Celebrating the Importance of Second Chance Month

Each April the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) honors Second Chance Month, where we recognize the importance of supporting the successful reentry of the hundreds of thousands of individuals returning to their communities from prison every year and the many more returning from jail. Second Chance Month is an important time to lift up and encourage federal, state, local, and tribal governments and community-based organizations to continue working to address the barriers faced by our returning community members. The Biden-Administration has prioritized intervention models to assist those returning from incarceration in finding success such as through funding and promoting job training, substance use and mental health services, access to health care, and more.

Within HHS, we recognize the importance of our work in the reentry process, through supporting the health and well-being of returning community members and their families. This includes working to address the increased risk of death and overdose upon release and in assisting reunifying families. While not as commonly associated with HHS, homelessness is another key issue needing to be addressed for those returning from incarceration, as individuals who have been incarcerated are almost ten times more likely to experience homelessness than the general public. Secretary Becerra has championed these administrative priorities and as the current Chair of the United States Interagency Council on Homeless (USICH), homelessness prevention for returning community members is one of the populations he is focusing on as being particularly susceptible to housing challenges.

At HHS, we also recognize that a crucial component of our work in this area is hearing from those directly affected by incarceration to help inform our policy and program decisions. In the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, I’m proud to say that we’ve not only investigated and for doing this, but we’ve also implemented these practices into our own work. For example, when convening our to inform the design of a Medicaid demonstration opportunity focused on improving care transitions for individuals pre-release, we made sure to include individuals who had experienced incarceration in the group.

Internally, ASPE and HHS have been working to educate our staff on reentry issues through a yearlong set of learning sessions. Our hope is that through these learning sessions all HHS employees will have the opportunity to learn about the reentry process, resources that are already available, and how to consider this population in their work. While these are internal trainings, their benefits will be far reaching. Others across HHS are also engaging in their own agency-specific efforts to raise awareness for Second Chance Month. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention is hosting multiple events for their staff including a reentry simulation, speakers with lived experience with incarceration, and a site visit to a local reentry facility.

HHS is also taking action to meet the specific needs of those reentering the community. This includes the launch of the new , with California becoming the first state to cover certain health care services pre-release for individuals transitioning back to their communities and other states following. Additionally, the the availability of $51 million for the first-ever funding opportunity for HRSA-funded health centers to implement innovative approaches to support transitions in care for people leaving incarceration. HRSA has also updated policy to make clear that health centers can provide health services to incarcerated individuals who are expected to be or are scheduled for release from a carceral setting within 90 days to help ensure continuity of care.

While there is much work to be done, we are excited and hopeful at these investments in the reentering population from every level of the federal government.



Binswanger, Ingrid A., Marc F. Stern, Richard A. Deyo, Patrick J. Heagerty, Allen Cheadle, Joann G. Elmore, and Thomas D. Koepsell. “Release from prison—a high risk of death for former inmates.” New England Journal of Medicine 356, no. 2 (2007): 157-165.; Patterson, Evelyn J. “The dose–response of time served in prison on mortality: New York State, 1989–2003.” American Journal of Public Health 103, no. 3 (2013): 523-528.

Links and references to information from non-governmental organizations is provided for informational purposes and is not an HHS endorsement, recommendation, or preference for the non-governmental organizations.

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